As COVID-19 shuttered schools across California, school and district leaders developed and rolled out distance learning plans at unprecedented speeds. Despite the many well-intentioned efforts of educators at all levels, it is clear that distance learning experiences have varied dramatically across districts, schools, and families, and the conditions in which distance learning has occurred have disproportionately negatively impacted the very students who were already most underserved by our systems. Simply put, COVID-19 has significantly exacerbated the systemic inequities that already existed. The persistent violence towards and killing of Black people by police and the growing movement for racial justice have further illuminated the deeply ingrained structural racism that exists across multiple sectors and systems. 

Throughout the spring of 2020, The Education Trust–West conducted surveys with nearly 2,000 parents and engaged almost 200 educators in listening sessions. Parents and educators prioritized the following equity challenges for state and local leaders to address for the 2020-21 school year:

  • Social Emotional Wellness 
  • Digital Equity 
  • Family and Educator Engagement
  • Family Support for Distance Learning 
  • Assessment of Student Learning 

Fall 2020 presents an opportunity to think differently about how our systems operate. Disruption presents an opening to rebuild our systems with equity at the center. The recommendations we share are based on the best available research, examples of promising practices in California, and other states, and are grounded in the following equity principles: 

  1. Equitable recovery requires strong leadership, clear guidance, and targeted support from our state leaders, while still honoring local decision-making that reflects stakeholder engagement.
  2. Leaders should prioritize resources to serve the students and communities hardest hurt and most underserved by the pandemic and distance learning conditions.
  3. Decisions made for the 2020-21 school year should help lay the foundation for dismantling inequitable systems.

Centering Equity in the Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan

Equity and the Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan

The Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan provides an opportunity to ensure the students most deeply affected by school closures receive the support they need to thrive in a distance learning environment. Education leaders must focus planned actions on making sure these students and their families are connected to their schools, have full access to instruction, and have the learning needs resulting from the pandemic met.

State and Local Considerations for Addressing 5 Key Equity Challenges for 2020-21:

Social Emotional Wellness

Research shows that students fare better academically when their social, emotional, and mental wellness needs are met. State and education leaders must continue to work swiftly to prioritize social emotional learning (SEL) as they plan for the forthcoming academic year.

Digital Equity

The digital and technology resource divide is not a new phenomenon facing school-aged children of color and children experiencing poverty. Educators and policymakers across the state must quickly re-envision education given the likely necessity of online distance learning.

Family and Educator Engagement

School and district leader must center students, families, and eductors voices in their desicionmaking and provide resources necessary to engage, like information, training opportunities, and language translation and interpretation.

Family Support for Distance Learning

Distance Learning presents a challenge for many families and requires new ideas and a renewed commitment to supporting families as true partners. As schools plan for the 2020-21 school year, engaging and supporting families in distance learning must be a priority for state and school leaders.

Assessment of Student Learning

State and local education leaders should begin developing plans now to provide educators and families with accurate information at the beginning of the school year about academic performance to address students’ needs while centering their socioemotional well-being.

Additional Resources

The current crisis continues to affect us all statewide, nationwide, and globally – and at a time when California already needs to do much more, much faster to achieve educational justice.

While school and college leaders, teachers, students, parents, and families continue adjusting plans and responses to the Coronavirus, Ed Trust–West will continue to share education equity-centered resources and information, here.